The U of M Bisons men’s hockey team split a two-game exhibition series against the University of Regina Cougars, losing the first game 1-2 and winning the next 3-1.
The first game of the series was played Friday night at the Seven Oaks Sportsplex.
The Bisons got off to a quick start in the first. On the power play, Brandon, Man. native Keaton Jameson put the Bisons on the board, firing a shot from the top of the circle through the five-hole of Cougar goalie Donovan Buskey.
Although the Bisons found themselves up one early, the lead was not safe. Three minutes later, a Noah Basarab tripping penalty put the Cougars on the power play. At the tail end of the Regina man advantage, Cougar forward Riley Krane stole the puck while the Bisons were in transition, breaking in alone on Bison goalie Jeremy Link. Krane tucked it far side on link, tying the game at 1.
As the first progressed, the Cougars would lay multiple punishing hits on the Bisons, highlighted by a massive open-ice hit on first–year forward Duncan Pierce. Both teams traded breakaway chances but were not able to capitalize on either.
The Bisons were unable to finish on the power play. Midway through the second period, the Cougars swapped out Donovan Buskey for second–year goalie Curtis Meger. Bison forward Keaton Jameson fired the first shot past Meger, but it met the crossbar.
A few minutes later, the Cougars got their opportunity to strike. Former Steinbach Piston Christian Riemer sent a long stretch pass to Connor Chaulk, who quickly kicked it out to Ben Duperreault. The fourth–year forward walked in and made no mistake, firing a wrister post-and-in glove side past Link.
The Bisons did not find the net in the third. Bison forward Connor Barley was stopped twice on two breakaways. Galvanizing behind their goalie, the Cougars applied heavy pressure, overtaking the shot count. Link did his best protecting the Bisons’ net, stopping five shots from the Cougars, severalfrom point-blank range.
The Bisons pulled Link for the extra attacker with 1:12 left on the clock but were unable to tie it up, losing 2-1.
After the game, Bisons head coach Mike Sirant emphasized the importance these two exhibition games play in the Bisons’ schedule.
“I think we have to generate more offence, only scoring one goal tonight […] but I thought defensively we were pretty good,” said Sirant.
“I thought it was a better performance tonight than the last time we played Regina. It was a good effort, although we’ve got to start finding ways to win some hockey games, too.”
Sirant was in the stands watching the first game of the weekend and making final evaluations. He said to land a roster spot, players will have to focus on finer details, making sure to understand the coaches’ systems.
“These are two really important games in our evaluation process for final team selection,” said Sirant.
“We only have a few more games left in pre-season before we start the regular conference play in Calgary next Friday, so these next two games against Regina […] are really important now […] If we really start to come together with the execution of our systems and our concepts […] for tomorrow, we’ll find a way to win a game.”
Fortunately for the Bisons, game two would look much different.
Both teams came out fast and physical in the first period, laying punishing hits on each other’s defencemen.
Former Winnipeg Ice goalie Liam Hughes started in the net for the Bisons. He came up big in the first frame, stopping multiple odd man rushes from the Cougars.
At the other end, former Dauphin Kings goalie Brandon Holtby also stood on his head, fighting off scrambly plays in front and making a couple acrobatic saves.
Although the Cougar goalie was perfect in the first, the Bisons nabbed one early in the second. Off a slick pass in front from Brett Davis, third–year forward Colton Veloso jammed one in from a tight angle past Holtby, making it 1-0 Bisons.
Like their first meeting of the weekend, the Cougars once again responded quickly. Less than two minutes later, a Tyler Adams ice-burner from the left faceoff dot beat Hughes low blocker side, tying the game.
Unbothered by the goal, Hughes stood tall in net for the rest of the period.
The Bisons took over in the final frame. In a two–on–one, Devon Skoleski roofed a slick cross–crease pass from Veloso stick–side, putting the herd up one. On another rush, Brett Davis found Veloso alone in front, where he shot past Holtby short–side, adding insurance to the Manitoba lead.
The Cougars pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, but the brown–and–gold held the lead for the rest of the game, winning 3-1.
The win on Saturday is the first of the Bisons’ exhibition schedule. The weekend prior, they lost two games, the first 7-1 against the Cougars and the second 3-1 against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
The men’s hockey team will be looking to build off Saturday’s win ahead of their season opener in Alberta, where they face the University of Calgary Dinos Oct. 15 and 16.